I came across an interesting post at – Third Way Trans – about Schema Therapy related to gender dysphoria. I had not heard of Schema Therapy before. I’ve studied a lot of psychology and sometimes I think all the terms and theories of therapy get excessive and unhelpful. All the terms are simply ways of categorizing and analyzing human behavior, but we must remember that these are terms made up by psychological theorists, not pure realities. When it seems like every psychologist comes up with his own terms, I get frustrated. Anyway, I guess sometimes it helps to have terms to describe the reality of what we experience, so if using the term “schema” is helpful, so be it.
The author of the blog talks about a possible schema related to masculinity and femininity. This makes a lot of sense to me and certainly resonates with my own experience and what I’ve also noticed from reading and talking to many crossdressers and those with transgender feelings / gender dysphoria.
He mentions three strategies for trying to deal with those feelings.
The first is overcompensation. I myself, (and certainly other crossdressers), have felt very inadequate in my masculinity. And to make matters worse, every time we crossdressed or imagined being a female, it only made us feel like even more like a fraud as a boy or man, and made us feel even more insecure about our masculinity. I did overcompensate as a youth, but still not enough to avoid jeering by peers and being called “gay” quite often. But I did what I could to seem tough, kept my emotions bottled up inside while at school, and engaged in certain activities I was very uncomfortable doing like certain team sports. Thankfully today as a man, I no longer feel any desire or pressure to overcompensate. I am just myself and do what I want to do and what I need to do. I feel like a man, even though I know I’m different from other men. I let God tell me who I am as a man of God, rather than trying to conform to the standards of the culture. And because I am no longer crossdressing or fantasizing about being a woman, I no longer feel like a fraud as a man.
Second, he talks about avoidance. Of course for many of us this comes out in crossdressing, or viewing crossdressers online, or reading crossdressing fiction, or simply fantasizing and masturbating. Obviously, there had to be something going on (like erotic imprinting or some biological precursor or both for us to develop this sexual component). As these behaviors are meant as escapism or pain avoidance from the schema, it certainly makes sense that we would go to crossdressing in times of stress. What better way to escape reality and your feelings of dysphoria by pretending to be somebody else? Thankfully, today I can report that I have dealt with these feelings in an appropriate healthy way. Now if the pain ever resurfaces regarding my gender, it’s easy to go to God and find comfort in Him. While it’s true that sometimes temptations still come in times of stress, I think it’s less about my gender feelings now, and more just tempted to have quick sexual pleasure in times of stress. My gender schema has healed. I am very much, and even nearly perfectly, content. But I have to keep going through the long process (possibly never ending) of reconditioning my body to desire the right things sexually, and not the wrong things.
Third, he talks about giving in to the schema, which would be a man actually trying to live as a woman. I know many of you have done this, whether in a limited way or even to the point of altering your body. I’ve heard from many of you that it did not work and did not take away your dysphoria or pain.
The author mentions that there is hope in healing. And I fully agree, though we may disagree somewhat on the method of that healing. While I don’t discount the importance of counseling and other psychological methods of cognitive and behavioral therapy (in fact I would highly recommend such counseling), I think are healing is most of all to be found in God and the truth of his Word. It is only God who can heal our gender pain and dysphoria. It is God who tells us who we are, who he created us to be (see this post). It is he who tells us what manhood and masculinity are all about, not the culture in its stifling expectations. It is God who comforts us when we feel like we don’t fit in with others.